Hockey Gives Back in My Hometown

Here’s a nice article about how our local minor hockey association has created a special needs hockey program and how it’s making a difference in the lives of several children and their families. The Boy and his team actually participated as on-ice helpers with this program last season.  I believe they benefited from the experience as well.  Keep up the good work everyone.


Last Minute Christmas Wish List for a Hockey Dad

Looking for a gift for your favorite hockey father who has everything? Here are a few practical, but perhaps not quite so probable, items any dad would be thrilled to find “under the tree” on xmas morning.

  • A GPS pre-programmed with every arena, motel and Tim Horton’s from St. John’s to Victoria and north to Iqaluit cuz ya never know where the game may take you.
  • An unbreakable composite stick because at $200 a pop there is no more disturbing sound than the snap following an errant slash across the shaft of your kid’s twig.
  • A rubber garage door to withstand late night slap-shot practice on the driveway.
  • An instant, self-cleaning backyard rink to free up the countless hours spent leveling, erecting, flooding, scraping, shoveling and re-flooding for two-months of functional ice.
  • A pre-paid gas card for Dad’s service station of choice – nuff said.
  • For hockey fathers turned hockey coaches – The Unabridged Compendium on How to Deal with Hockey Parents Volumes 1-12 (also available as a 10 disk audiobook or iTunes download – please allow 2-3 hours to download)
  • The successful return of the Winnipeg Jets to the NHL.  Oh wait, that miracle was already granted despite the best efforts of a certain vampiric little Scrooge.  Would it be pushing our luck to ask for a playoff berth in year one as well?
  • The year long rental of a film crew to capture and edit all of the highlights of all the Boy’s games dad missed because he was at another rink with Devil or vice versa.
  • Free ice time. Hey…..I said it was a wish list and even the unlikeliest of wishes can be wished for here.
  • The Unofficial Guide to Bad Referee Calls detailing how some otherwise unexplainable decisions are made by the men and women we affectionately call “Stripes” as documented by the same – these are their stories.
  • A free night for Dad and Mom to do something just for them.  Like going to the local wing joint to enjoy a pound and a pitcher while watching NHL games on 10 different plasma TVs. That sounds awesome right?
  • A Gordie Howe hat trick for the Boy and a regular ole hattie for the Devil on the same day, witnessed by Dad, beaming inside with pride in a quiet corner of the rink.
  • An unlimited pass to roll back the clock to when they were but fledgling players with sticks acting more as make-shift crutches supporting their wobbly limbs; yet finding the courage to swipe at an oncoming hard rubber disk, only to heroically miss, falling victim to gravity and the cold, hard, frozen surface beneath them.  Then popping enthusiastically back to their starter skates in search of their little black nemesis for a second attempt and rejoicing as they nudge the puck between two mounds of snow fashioned into a make-believe net.

Please do add your own wishes to the list and I’ll see what I can do about passing them along to the hockey gods before the morning of the 25th.  Happy Holidays moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas and all of you who love the game for the game.


It’s All in the Timing

While the Devil and my girls’ team befuddle wishful onlookers and coaches with awesome efforts lacking in desired results, the Boy’s team appears to have hit its stride at about the right time. They’ve turned in a string of successful outings dating back to their International Silver Stick Qualifier tournament a way up north we weekend before last.  I didn’t make that trip as duties called with the ladies squad closer to home, but by all accounts they took their game to another level.

As it turned out, the tournament they entered was primarily made up of teams a level above them (AA). However, they reportedly more than held their own in opening the festivities with a 2-0 win over an undoubtedly shocked host side. They followed that up with a 2-2 ties against yet another AA opponent as the Boy himself counted the tying marker on a shorthanded break. Their third game before the only actual “qualifying” match they would have came against a known powerhouse from the local AA league. Again, the lads held their own in only trailing 1-0 after two periods. They would eventually succumb in a 4-0 loss, however, they were commended by their foes’ coaches on their performance.  Someone was said to have commented that they did not play like “just an A team”; welcome praise indeed.  Finally, in the qualifying game they had made the nearly three hour trip to play, they walked over their opponent in a 4-0 victory, securing a spot in the Silver Stick a few weeks down the road.  I unsurprisingly won’t be able to make that trip either as the Devil has a couple of games of her own on the designated weekend.

Since the tournament last weekend, the Boys have continued their positive play securing wins over a team ahead of them in their league standings and a lesser light they needed to beat which they did quite handily scoring three times in the first four minutes.  At this point in the season they need to keep their momentum as they try to move their way up the ladder and improve their playoff seeding.  Yup, playoffs are just around the corner.  Here we are the week of Christmas and between the two we’ll be at the rink a total of nine times in six days.  The clock ticks quickly once you hit December – or really any time for that matter.


Play Like a Girl?

This National Post article makes some good points about girls vs. boys hockey, but from where I stand, the competition level is just a high on the Devil’s team as it is on the Boy’s. You need only watch and listen to what’s happening in the stands, on the bench or in the dressing room to gauge the level of competition involved.  That being said, fun is and should always remain part of the equation or we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture.


Psychological Balancing Act

I’ve had perhaps my most challenging couple of days as a hockey coach this weekend as an unforecasted storm was unleashed in the dressing room of my girls’ team during a local tournament.

I first started seeing some cracks in our teams’ communal armour a little over a week ago when I noticed a couple of players conducting their pre-game warm up and preparation away from the rest of the team. As the players are 13 and 14 years old, I had decided to give them the freedom to conduct their pre-game stretching and rituals on their own, with minimal supervision assuming they would fall together in lock step. However, some felt others were not following the team line. I tried to address the situation at the time by reminding the players of the importance of an all for one and one for all attitude; the importance of playing and acting as a team.

A second pre-game issue involved head-high shots being fired at our goaltenders. The purpose of these shots is to warm the goalies up; give them a chance to get used to the feel of the puck. But they don’t want to feel it up around their noggins. Players launching the questionable salvos argued they were only trying to work on their shots, but failed to realize this practicing should not happen a mere 10 feet in front of the keeper. We suggested if they needed practice is should be done from well out above the faceoff circles. Even some parents in the stands (not only those of the netminders) raised issue with the proximity of these shots out of concern for player safety. We had tried to talk through the whole situation in a previous practice, but our discussion seemed to have fallen on a few deaf ears.

I found out quickly divisions within the team were drawn a little deeper than I realized. Factions had apparently formed over the last several weeks centred around a couple of particularly strong personalities. I knew from the beginning that managing different personalities came with the territory, but I admittedly underestimated how divisive these temperaments could be or how quickly they could attack the fabric which holds a team together. I even had one player questioning her position and interest in continuing. Her parents weighed in as well with claims of a long smoldering flame of discontent. I obviously had no idea things had reached such a febrile pitch.

I decided, with some decided trepidation, a frank team meeting was required prior to our next game to air whatever differences had arisen; a meeting I knew had the potential to go sideways with dire results. I was as open and honest as I could be with my players’ delicate psyches again recognizing they are for the most part young, but rapidly maturing adults. I told them the negative stuff had to stop if we hope to have any success as a team. Harsh feelings were visible and verbalized. Then again a lot of good questions and comments were conveyed. At the end I believe we made some progress, though only time will tell. We were able to pull out a victory with a strong effort in the game which followed. And maybe this win along with a few more will serve to heal some wounds. Yet, I know this is a situation we will need to monitor more closely now that some damage has been done.

This is the part of coaching I knew about, but hoped, I would not have to deal with. Even lost a few hours sleep over it.

On the brighter hockey side, the team actually prospered through the turmoil managing to get into the semi-finals of the tourney. That’s where our journey ended this morning as we dropped the semi-final tilt to our oh-so familiar league rivals by a score of 4-2. Here’s hoping the scales weigh more in our favour both on and off the ice from here on in.


Ten (G-Rated) Things Overheard on a Hockey Bench

Standing behind or on the bench as a coach, assistant coach or trainer, Hockey Mom and I have been privy to some interesting comments over the years.  As the Boy and the Devil have gotten older, the quips have become less and less suitable for presentation in mixed company, however, here are a few memorable ones from when they were somewhat younger.

10. “Did you have fun jumping over the boards?” Asked of a teammate who just had her first successful trip over said boards versus being ushered out the traditional ice-level door by an assistant coach/makeshift traffic cop.

9. “What’s the score?”  Obviously posed by a player who was intensely focused on the game, but was perhaps in need of corrective lenses.

8. “That goalie is crazy.” A phrase uttered on more than one occasion by more than one player in reference to more than one apparently anger-ridden or terribly frustrated goaltender rightly opposed to having players enter the forbidden blue ice of the goal crease.

7. “My feet are cold.”  A common complaint issued around 6:45am on weekend mornings in classic, old, rural barns with crisp sheets of black ice in late January.

6. “I know.  I’m sorry.”  Most often heard just after a goal has been scored, a penalty has been served or an unfortunate combination of the two.

5. “Who are we playing?” Asked by the same laser-focused player who from #9 above.

4. “Pass the puck!”  More often than not shouted at players on the ice by teammates on the bench who once they reach the ice have the same phrase shouted right back at them.

3. “What’s your name?” Asked of a player by coach early in the season and beyond the age when names are boldly written in permanent marker strips of masking tape and then fashioned securely to the fronts of helmets as constant reminders for the memory-challenged.  In our defence, behind those masks, they sometimes all look the same.

2. “I can’t see.” Proclaimed by a young lady from behind a cage and through a sea of matted, saliva-covered, half-frozen, dark brown hair, which takes a full two minutes to fix. Then proclaimed again not more than two minutes later after her very next shift.

And my all-time favourite, innocently offered by a  five-year old young lad who was actually little and actually named Johnny:

1. “Coach, I’m not going back out next shift. I really suck at hockey.”

Let me know if you’ve heard any that can top these.